Eastern Panhandle airport receives federal funding to offset COVID revenue loss, claims funds aren’t distributed equally

West Virginia

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — A local airport in the Eastern Panhandle just received funding from the latest installment of the American Rescue Plan.

The Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport in Martinsburg is receiving $32,00 from the U.S. Department of Transportation under the American Rescue Plan. This funding will help airports cover revenue loss and other expenses that have accumulated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Neil Doran, the Director of Aviation of the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, explains that the general aviation airport does not service commercial flights, meaning a majority of their revenue stems from private pilots. While the airport has not seen as much hardship as other airports that saw commercial flights drop off, their main source of revenue did see a significant decrease.

“The general aviation traffic did drop. And so revenues that we might see, [like] providing them with service, providing them with fuel, hangar revenues we were affected, particularly in the spring of 2020,” Doran said.

The funds can be used to cover janitorial costs from increased sanitation measures or reimbursement of revenue lost from the sharp decline of passengers, but Doran says the continuous cost of electricity for the airport will be prioritized.

“You think about all of the miles and miles of wiring circuits and all of the hundreds and hundreds of airfield lights up and burning through many hours of the night or in cloudy conditions, ends up being a big electrical power bill,” Doran explained. “And so we have that year after year after year, [during a] good economy or bad.”

The Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is one of ten airlines to receive funding from the most recent round of the American Rescue Plan, but Doran claims it’s just a fraction of what is needed to run the airport especially while they aid a crucial entity in the state. He says that even though the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is one of the largest airports in the state when comparing runway length and the number of runways, among other factors, the airport does not receive what Doran believes is equitable funding.

He explained that because the general aviation airport does not service commercial flights, they are often placed in the shadow of other airports with more commercial air traffic.

The lack of funding frustrates Doran and his staff as the airport provides special runways and other necessary resources to the West Virginia Air National Guard. He explains the tarmacs were updated to cater specifically to large cargo planes used by the 167th Airlift Wing Air National Guard which is based at the airport.

“Changing policy to recognize the role of large general aviation airports or the role of general aviation airports that are hosting the air national guard, they should be given more resources from the FAA,” Doran explained. “Because they’re supporting the flying units that carry out that important state and federal function.”

Doran stressed that while he and the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is grateful for the funding, he believes the distribution of funds should be re-evaluated in the future.

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